Verizon, Sprint settle messaging complaint

Verizon Wireless and Sprint have agreed to pay $158 million to settle complaints that they charged millions of dollars of unauthorized fees that appeared on customer cellphone bills in a practice known as cramming, the FCC announced.

Under the agreement, Verizon will pay $90 million and Sprint $68 million.

The unauthorized charges were for third-party premium text messaging services. The FCC said it received “numerous” complaints from consumers who had never requested the services and were denied refunds by the companies. Most charges ran $9.99 a month, although they ranged from $1 to $14, according to the FCC. The phone companies received about a third of the money collected.

“Consumers rightfully expect their monthly phone bills will reflect only those services they’ve purchased,” said Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC enforcement bureau. “Today’s settlements put in place strong protections that will prevent consumers from being victimized by these kinds of practices in the future.”

Last year, AT&T and T-Mobile agreed to settlements in similar investigations, with the companies paying $195 million. Since the start of last year, the FCC has collected almost $400 million in related settlements, the agency said.

Verizon customers can visit www.cfpbsettlementverizon.com for more information.